Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Relax Said the Nightman by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”

― Coco Chanel

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

― Frederick Douglass

Fountain at Galatyn Park, Richardson, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, December 01, 1998

Illustrated Woman

After work, Candy took the kids down to the school for some function, I drove off to the club to work out.

Now, don’t think I’m exercising as an excuse to watch other people. I’m serious about this, I’m working hard; but the first part of my program is to do a half hour on the stepper. There isn’t much to do for thirty minutes except look around at the other folks working out.

I try to do the stepper right. I stand as upright as possible, keeping my weight on my feet, using my hands only for balance. A couple machines down some guy was flopped over forwards, resting his chest on the control panel, his arms on the handles. His entire weight was supported there, his blue spandex-covered butt stuck up in the back. I don’t think he’s gets any exercise that way and it must be killing his back.

In front of the steppers, past the always-busy treadmills is a warm-up area, where people do their stretching. This club is a pretty serious place, not a lot of socializing, and although there is a wide variety of customers, a lot of serious bodybuilders hang out there.

I couldn’t help but notice one woman on the mat bending herself around, stretching. Tall and thin, almost gaunt, wearing wire-rim glasses and medium length blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore white shorts, a gray athletic bra-top, black workout shoes and weightlifting gloves. She must have had some Yoga training, those were serious stretches. She stood, feet far apart, and keeping her torso and legs straight and locked bent over and touched her cheek to the inside of each calf. Then she rolled around and tapped the back of her head on the padded floor between her feet.

What caught my eye wasn’t her extraordinary flexibility, it was her tattoo. Not a small, ordinary tattoo, but a big design. She was illustrated. The illustration was a vine, I guess a climbing wild rose. I thought I could make out red blossoms and maybe even thorns among the thick green leaves. It started as a spiral tendril between her breasts and grew into an arc over her left shoulder. It continued down her back in undulating curves and finally ended… well, I couldn’t really tell exactly where it ended.

I’m not ordinarily a big fan of tattoos, but I liked this one. It looked like a real part of her, not some odd design picked out in a drunken haze and buzzed in on an ankle in a whim. Jeez, though, that must have hurt. A good two or three square feet of skin under that electric needle.

I finished my stepper and walked some laps to cool down before I started working on the weight machines. Down on one end of the club is the free weight area where the serious bodybuilders work. One woman was sitting, doing concentration curls with a dumbbell. The biceps on her arm literally popped out like a hank of thick cords, you could almost see every muscle strand. She was like a sculptor in flesh. The sculptor and the sculpture too. Slow carving with sweat and plates of steel.

For the most part, the men down there had unmarked skin. I had never noticed before, though, that over half of the women had large complex tattoos. Abstract patterns across their bellies. One had a tiger looking out of its lair drawn across her shoulder blades.

I thought back to something I heard on TV as a child, during the Olympics, I suppose it was the 1968 games in Mexico City. The announcer was talking about the East German women’s swimming team. She said something like, “The Communist Bloc girls have a big advantage over the American women because they have a weight lifting program. American women won’t lift weights because they are afraid they will look too manly .”

Thirty years ago. It’s odd that I remember that from so long ago; I have no idea why it made such an impression. Things have changed a bit since then, though, haven’t they.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Relax Said the Nightman by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

from Newfound

Melissa Llanes Brownlee Webpage

Melissa Llanes Brownlee Twitter

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